On a vacation in Provincetowne sometime in the late ’70s, my husband and I followed our noses to the intoxicating aroma of garlic wafting from Ciro and Sal’s, just off Commercial Street. It was there that we first discovered the delight of puttanesca – a sauce made “whore style” with tomatoes, olives, anchovies, capers, and crushed red pepper.
If you are at all squeamish about anchovies or do not enjoy the umami that these little filets bring to a dish, then stop reading now. But if you do, then please continue to see what tonight’s dinner of Pasta Puttanesca and Caesar Salad hold in store.
The inspiration for tonight’s dinner began with the two egg yolks in my fridge left from my son’s egg white omelette this morning and the additional ingredients for puttanesca in my larder.
The yolks were the perfect excuse to whip up a batch of Caesar dressing. I used to do my Caesar salads in the manner of restaurants of the ’60’s and ’70s that did them table-side – rubbing a salted and peppered wooden salad bowl with a halved garlic clove, and then whisking in olive oil, lemon juice, etc. etc. But more recently, a recipe for a superb make-ahead dressing appeared on the Epicurious website, so that’s what I use now.
- 6 anchovy fillets packed in oil (or a couple of tsp of anchovy paste)
- 1 small garlic clove crushed
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons finely grated Romano or Parmesan plus more for adorning the salad
- S&P to taste
In a medium bowl, whisk together the anchovies, crushed garlic, egg yolks, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Then gradually, drop by drop, whisk in the olive oil, and then do the same with the vegetable oil. Whisk in the grated cheese and S&P to taste, and store in the fridge until ready to use. This will keep at least a week if you do not use it all at once.
When ready to serve, tear your romaine into bite-sized pieces, toss with the dressing, then add more grated cheese and croutons and toss again. For croutons, my favorite of late is to use gently broken Stacey’s Parmesan Garlic Pita Chips – they are perfect.
The puttanesca can also be done on the fly in a skillet, but tonight I used a recipe from Emeril that takes a bit more time:
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes with their juice, broken into pieces
1/2 cup tightly packed, pitted, and halved Kalamata olives
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsop drained capers
1 tbsp minced anchovy fillets (about 4 fillets)
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed basil
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces penne pasta or linguine, cooked al dente
In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, about 40 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste, cover and set aside. Toss the cooked penne pasta with the sauce and sprinkle with cheese if you wish.